Quentin Burton 2020 – SongSmith Global
Songwriter, musician and event organiser, in that order, with a passion for singer / songwriters.
A band member from the age of 10 (primary school band consisting of piano, violin (me!), recorder, acoustic guitar and vocals playing eclectic covers which set a pattern for subsequent bands too.
Having failed to master the violin and piano though with some successes I took up the acoustic guitar and then bass. A songwriter since the age of 15 I discovered my musical passion (aside from David Bowie) and that led to various secondary school bands playing a mixture of my originals and those eclectic covers again. A dozen odd bands and some minor success on the London circuit with Even In Holland before moving to Bristol and giving up music for a while.
Rediscovering the love in 2003 and co-founding the occasional outfit No Prima Donnas led to a first ‘album’ dedicated to his brother and new wife called ‘Chaos and Dysfunction (A Friends and Family Affair) which is still available and again mixes Q originals plus ‘romantic’ covers and compositions from songwriters and friends Michael Adrian and Jonathan Gadsby.
Then various solo and duos, open mics and small gigs, setting up a home and project studio (2005) for collaborations and compositions and ‘learning a bit about production and engineering plus sound in general both live and studio. The sound engineering led to setting up SongSmith (2007) with Helen Ditchburn and event management under the Jumping Joint Ltd Q catchall. Here started a run of nearly 13 years of weekly gigs at Mr Wolf’s in Bristol plus various other SongSmith outings at venues such as St Bonaventures, a festival at the Louisiana and The Thunderbolt which would last until lockdown in March 2020.
Back in 2007 SongSmith set up office in Stokes Croft with one room for business and one room as a studio. Based behind Mickelburgh’s in rooms run by Artist Studios led to some recording and production work and then following up a Helen project after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans let to a compilation album of local singer / songwriters including one of my songs, A Place To Play. Again variously a collection of covers and originals it came out in 2009 and as a result of which I was lucky enough to go to New Orleans (with colleague and dear friend Mark), to the famous Tipitinas, play a couple of low key gigs, deliver a workshop about ‘Authentic Happiness’ t and experience the delights of a roof top pool and Bourbon Street.
The album, “Songs of Katrina” received mixed reviews in Bristol but better received on a short tour as a trio and sales / proceeds / collections enabled us (myself and Mark Stipanovsky, aka Black Cab Mark) to make a modest donation to the Tipitinas Foundation, raising money for musical instruments for schools in New Orleans which was still suffering the after affects of the disaster, now more the ensuing flood than the hurricane. During this time I also became active in the Bristol Music Foundation which later morphed into the Bristol Music Industry Network, and remained a contributing member, including co-curating a charity event called ‘Art For Our Sake’ at the Colston Hall, until I left Bristol.
The Katrina album led to a collaboration with local singer / songwriter Doc Satori that became the fledging first collaboration of The Real King(s) of Spain. When Helen left the business the office and studio became unviable and eventually SongSmith Studios decamped to my home in Dove Street, high above Stokes Croft, or Beirut as Mark used to call it because of all the derelict and seemingly bombed out buildings. There, the songs for the album “The Future of Mass Hysteria” were written with Doc. With production and mixing added by the late great Paul Whitrow and a bass line kindly donated by Angelo Bruschini from Massive Attack the album eventually saw the later of day in late 2012.
A live band was created. Local dates, a mini-tour and gigs in Wales and up that there London followed. A studio live album of the Mass Hysteria songs was recorded at 13 Sound Studios in Kewstoke emerged online in 2015. New material was written in the studio and developed with the live band in rehearsal and more gigs played. Things looked rosy but then with the departure of Luis, the real Spaniard in the band back to Spain, the live band was retired.
The new songs were recorded and collected dust for a while. Any thoughts of reviving the live band ended with the pandemic – though the songs are finally and slowly being released from the end of 2020.
Meantime after the death of David Bowie I formed a band that played his songs (covers, not tribute) with some remnants of RKoS and contributors from work with Mind Your Music (where I was a contributor and trustee), Elton John Experience and Studio 7 (where I was a director till the end of 2019). The band, The Genius of David Bowie (GoDBowie) was starting to pick up a following with gigs at Mr Wolf’s, The Thunderbolt, Dragonffli (Pontypool) and the newly opened Cloak and Dagger. Playing hits, obscure numbers and album anniversaries, we covered the whole of Lodger, Space Oddity, ‘hours…’ and were just starting work on ‘Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps), when …. Yes it’s that bloody virus again. Maybe 2021 will see us play the 50th anniversary of ‘Hunky Dory’. Here’s hoping.
With lockdown SongSmith hung on for 3 months, including a live stream for Make Music Day in June. It became increasingly obvious that there would be no return to live music soon and so SongSmith as a business was closed in July 2020 and Q decamped to a hillside just outside Valencia to sit out the necessary lockdown and isolation.
Though 2020 was undeniably shit in many ways it also gave opportunities, such as the Spain move. It also allowed me to go back to my love of songwriting and I have written more songs since March than in the previous 10 years. It also introduced me to Sunday Songwriters and some of the nicest, most supportive people, I have ever met. In the industry and out of it. Run by the superlative Rosie Bans and Becci Wallace, long time friends of SongSmith, and latterly Suz Gibson (Fenrys) who I had met on a songwriting retreat in April 2019. The former two went on to set up SongSeeds, an online songwriting retreat project and with the nth wave active in both UK and Spain the group is slowly starting up again. That and family and other friends have been life saving and a total joy from March to the present day.
So for now the music is all inside. With various projects lined up of GoDBowie recordings, new songs, old songs, songwriting, maybe some streaming the cut down home studio has been pressed into action in my lovely, if very windy, Spanish hillside whilst I await the return of people in the flesh, gigs, visitors, and a vaccination from one country or the other. With lots to keep me busy, including my therapy work, which is another story altogether I have also returned to another love, writing. Hence these blogs. Maybe some streaming. Also possibilities of collaborations with new dear friend Steve Stachini, an artist inspired by Bowie and a talented chap. His work can be seen online via blackstar.Studio.
So live will be virtual for a while, a little lonely in places, however it will certainly NOT be dull.